Fort Jackson joined the rest of the nation Sept. 28 in honoring Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the cultural heritage of the nation's largest linguistic and ethnic minority.

"(It's) great to be part of an Army and a nation that recognizes diversity as one of our greatest strengths," Col. Stephen Aiton, commander of the Soldier Support Institute, told a luncheon gathering at the Fort Jackson NCO Club. "This month we recognize and celebrate the integral role that Hispanic Americans have long played in our rich culture, proud heritage and the building of this great nation."

National Hispanic Heritage Month straddles two months, and is observed from, Sept. 15 until Oct. 15 and coincides with the national independence anniversaries of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

"We get the opportunity today, though great food, music and dance, and a very accomplished guest speaker, to pay tribute to Hispanic Americans who continue to shape our Army and our nation's bright future," Aiton said.

The event's guest speaker was Julio Hernandez, director of Hispanic Outreach for Clemson University's Office of Inclusion and Equity.

"Hispanic traditions and values have made us a better nation," Hernandez said. "In our multi-cultural society, we can appreciate that diversity does make us stronger. When I think of diversity, it gives me the picture of a symphony ... (each instrument) had their own sound, but when they all came together they all contributed to a warm, beautiful concierto."

As examples of courage and dedication, Hernandez pointed to two men in uniform: Sgt. 1st Class Agustín Ramos Calero and Admiral David Farragut.

Calero was a member of Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment and fought with American during World War II.

"He was nicknamed the 'One-Man Army' because he was responsible for holding back the German army during (the Battle of Colmar Pocket," Hernandez said. "He was wounded many times but continued serving throughout Europe and received two medals, making him the most decorated Hispanic American of World War II."

Farragut, the very first person to achieve the rank of admiral, was also of Hispanic heritage, he said.
"Farragut's father was a native of Spain, and he served in the Navy from 1810 to 1870 ... he served 60 years," Hernandez said. "These are just a few examples of people of Hispanic heritage that have enriched our society."